One of the more interesting things about Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) is his unusual electoral history. In 2010, the New Hampshire Republican faced off against then-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) and won, but the two faced off again in 2012 and this time Guinta came up short. They had a re-rematch in 2014, which Guinta won. He’ll probably face Shea-Porter for the fourth consecutive cycle next year.
That is, if he’s still in Congress. The Boston Globe reported the other day on the GOP congressman getting caught up in a campaign-finance scandal, which has suddenly left him without many friends.
After five years of denying wrongdoing, Guinta was found by the Federal Election Commission to have accepted $355,000 in illegal contributions from his parents. He has said the money he used for his first congressional campaign was also his, but now Guinta must refund the full sum to his parents and pay a $15,000 fine.But it gets worse. On Friday, the conservative publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader ran a six-word editorial with his picture: “Frank Guinta is a damned liar.” The state’s highest-ranking Republican, US Senator Kelly Ayotte, described the incident as “serious and troubling.” Former US Representative Jeb Bradley, a Republican who once employed Guinta on his staff, said Guinta “is on a pretty lonely island” these days.
As a rule, “damned liar” is one of those phrases politicians try to avoid.
The underlying campaign-finance controversy isn’t especially complicated. In 2010, looking to boost his campaign, Guinta loaned himself $355,000, which wouldn’t have been particularly controversial, except for the fact that his disclosure forms suggested he didn’t have $355,000. He said at the time it was from a previously unreported bank account and amended his financial disclosure forms.
When pressed on whether he received the money from his parents, Guinta repeatedly denied the allegation. The FEC, which only seems able to act on the most brazen irregularities, found that the Republican lawmaker did, in fact, receive the money from his parents, which Guinta now justifies by saying he’d put his own money over the years into his parents’ account – so he considered it his money.
Yesterday, the Union Leader, arguably the most conservative newspaper in New England, called on Guinta to resign.
The GOP incumbent, at least so far, has given no indication that he’s considering such a possibility, but Guinta has very likely noticed that Ayotte, among others, called the FEC findings “serious and troubling,” and no one from the state or national party has spoken up to defend him.
The Boston Globe added that some New Hampshire Republican officials have “started to focus on how to move on without Guinta,” suggesting they assume he’ll either resign or face a primary challenge he’d struggle to win.
The bigger picture is worth keeping in mind: New Hampshire is likely to be a presidential battleground, and Kelly Ayotte is expecting a tough race. The GOP realizes that if Guinta is struggling to find support, it may very well affect Republican turnout statewide, especially since New Hampshire only has two congressional districts.
If Guinta does step down – still a big “if” at this stage – he would be the third House Republican to resign just since the start of the year, following New York’s Michael Grimm and Illinois’ Aaron Schock.
Update: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) announced this morning that she believes Guinta should resign. Once this ball gets rolling, it’s often hard to stop it.